Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lots Going On

There is a lot going on right now.  I just got back from San Diego and I'm starting a new job.   It's always stressful going from something comfortable to something new and out of your comfort zone.  I am adjusting.   I won't be able to fish at lunch anymore which kind of sucks but I'll live.  Reflecting on this year has been very interesting.  This has been by far my best fishing year ever.  I have caught many new species and even my first salt water fish.  I'm excited to see what else the year has to bring.  I'm hoping to get out and fish this weekend.  It all depends on the weather.  Fall is definitely on it's way.  The temp has dropped at least 10 degrees and is on the steady decline.  I'm hoping fish will be trying to fatten up before it gets too cold.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Troubled Waters

My father has had serious health problems recently. They have gotten so bad the doctor told me if I want to visit him I need to do it now. He was showing signs of dementia and his organs were shutting down. I made the quick decision to fly out to San Diego and visit him. The day I landed I spent the afternoon and evening at the hospital. My father looked pale and seemed to be in some pain but his mind seemed ok. The nurses would often ask him if he remembered his name, where he was and the year. He could answer all of the questions fine. After the nurses left I decided to ask him a few questions.  The first was what was my wifes name, then the grandkids. He couldn't name them but he behaved like they were on the tip of his tongue and he just couldn't come up with the words. Then I asked if he could tell me his dad's name. He struggled and I could see in his eyes the confusion and fear of understanding that he should know this information but can't come up with it. This really bothered me and I decided to stop asking questions because it was only going to stress us both out. While I was in San Diego I decided I'd go fishing to keep my sanity. There was a recent power outage that caused a huge sewage spill into the ocean. It covered a large area. I was able to go north of it but I probably still fished in water that was contaminated.

When I got to the parking lot it was a welcoming sight. Only a few cars were seen and the people getting out were metal detector nerds. They scour the sand looking for buried treasure or some person who was unlucky enough to drop a diamond ring. I got my gear ready and occasionally checked over my shoulder for other anglers. As I finished rigging my rod and headed towards the beach I didn't see another soul fishing.  There were people enjoying the darkness before sunrise. Joggers and tourists gawking at the waves rolling in. I had stopped by the So Cal Fly Shop the day before to get some information and flies. They had a fly box full of popular surf patterns for $20. I thought that was a pretty good deal. I felt some what prepared but I still didn't have any idea of what I was doing. I cast out parallel to the waves rolling in and realized the name of the game was line management. It was hard to keep the line straight and have a good feeling of where the fly was at.  Waves would catch the sinking line and jerk it out to the ocean or make it go slack sliding the fly towards shore. It was frustrating but I kept working at it. I couldn't see any sign of life in the water. I was told to fish ankle deep water. It was hard to discipline myself to stick to that. The waist deep water looked so inviting and that had to be where the bigger fish were. Seeing a wake and two good size fish breech the surface and escape to deeper water changed my thinking. The fish I was going for was called a Corbina. 
The fish looks similar to a drum. They spook very easy and are hard to sneak up on. Honestly I'd see most of them at the same time they spotted me. They'd disappear in a cloud of mud. The fish would ride in with the surf and hang out in depressions in the sand. I tried all of the flies I had bought. I thought many times that I had a hit but I couldn't really tell. The current was playing with my line. I tried casting at all angles. Towards the ocean, away from it, parallel. I really felt lost. Then a perch decided to throw me a bone. I felt the familiar tap on the end of my line. I set the hook and the fish felt like a bluegill. I was over joyed. This was my first saltwater fish caught on a fly.
From Summer'11
The fish was more colorful than the picture shows. Even with the enjoyment of what I had accomplished my mind couldn't shake the true reason I was in San Diego. I went back to the hospital and fished again in the afternoon but it didn't feel right.  My mind couldn't concentrate and the frustrations with the current and line were getting to me. I didn't fish again while I was there and spent the rest of the time with family and at the hospital. My father's memory went in and out. At times he could remember the names of the people I had asked him earlier. Then other times he could remember the month but not the year. Or he could remember the year but not the date.  The whole thing was kind of sad. The doctors couldn't find anything major wrong with him. The theory is he's had a couple strokes which are causing the memory problems. Honestly it could be a lot of things. Years of a hard life and diabetes are catching up to him. The hardest part of this trip was the true meaning for me. I looked at it as my time to say good bye. I think in a few months my father will not know who he is anymore or may not live past the year. We were never very close but it's still sad to see anyone go this way.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My First Roanoke Bass

Sometimes you're not just trying to catch a fish. You are trying to catch thee fish. I've been chasing Roanoke Bass for quite some time now. They are fairly rare but people do occasionally catch them on the Eno River. What I could never understand was how beginners seem to always have luck when it came to catching them. I hit he river yesterday with some friends. The water seemed to have even more hydrilla then the last time.  The green weeds choked the water and only provided one small lane that was free of debris. The fish were few and far in between. I did find a sunfish here and there but the fishing was really poor for the Eno. There was one section in particular that looked dead and void of life.  The bottom was covered in a thin blanket of silt. While wading I never even saw the shadow or movement of fish being spooked. I started to wonder if some sort of fish kill happened. I decided to try one more spot that was good to me about 2yrs ago. It is a large pool that has a rock you can get on top of and use as a casting platform.  It gives a great view into the water and with good casts you can almost cover the whole pool. I cast my fly near a submerged boulder and watched as it disappeared into the murky water. Then I felt a tap. I set the hook and had the familiar feeling of a sunfish.  While bringing the fish to the surface I noticed it didn't have the orange belly of a sunfish. I knew better then to get my hopes up that it might be a Roanoke. I kept bringing the fish in and finally when I had it in hand I did an inspection.
From Summer2011
I have been chasing these fish for so long that I was in denial that this fish was an actual Roanoke Bass.  I took several pictures and wondered if maybe it was just a green colored Warmouth. Then I noticed the gill plate. There were no lines on it what so ever. The coloring was also too green to be a Warmouth. This had to be a Roanoke. I was elated. As a bonus it was caught with a crayfish type pattern that I tied.  I have a theory about why so many beginners seem to have luck catching these fish. When the fish hit I provided zero action to the fly. It was just dead drifting. That makes sense because most beginners do not twitch and try to practice with different retrieves when they are learning. I will have to experiment more.  Until then I can check off another species on the list.
From Summer2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fishing Phobias

This post was inspired by another blog I follow and definitely suggest others reading. It's called Mysteries Internal. The author recently went over some of her fears about wading. It made me analyze my own fears and I figured I could best respond in a post.

I can relate to this. I'm not sure if it is from watching Jaws when I was five but I really hate wading where I can't see the bottom. Just as spooky are things rubbing against my legs. In San Diego I used to go to the beach at night with friends. There was nothing worse than playing in the water a wave hits you and slides sea weed along your legs. The feeling is indescribable and terrifying. Thinking about it while writing this gives me the heebie-jeebies. I become frustrated and wonder why I don't push myself past the fear. I always wonder, maybe this is a fear everyone has and if I can just push past it I will get to the fish where others were too afraid.

My last fishing trip I did just that. There was a mat of gross green underwater weeds. I guess it is called hydrilla.
At least that's what I call it. It grows up from the bottom and lays on the surface like an ugly green shag carpet. Your legs disappear when you walk through it and you are in a prairie of unknown water grass. It might sound like heaven to some but to me it's unnerving. What is in this grass? How deep is it under this grass? Why does this grass smell in some places and not others? Is it from other brave waders who died and are now fertilizer for this very plant? Who knows but it does get to me. The most silly part is most of this fear could be avoided by carrying a wading staff. I carry so many things already that I feel like a fishing version of a Swiss Army knife. I've been trying to downsize my gear for years. It just doesn't seem right to have a stick in one hand and a rod in the other. Even if it is for safety. That's my dumb logic.

When I moved through the grass I was happy that I was trying to face my fears but I couldn't wait to get to the next rock outcropping. There was one point where I was standing on a rock island surrounded by this green muck. I couldn't tell how deep it was on any side. I sort of bent down and tried to edge in with one leg. With every inch my leg went under the surface I kept hoping "please feel the bottom, please feel the bottom." Eventually my foot hit bottom and it was a lot shallower than I expected. But then came the dilemma of taking another step. I reluctantly walked through the grass and tried to not think about what was in it. I just focused on the next rocks I could climb up on. Even though I had walked through maybe 100yds of water without being able to see the bottom and what I was walking through, I was still having a hard time getting up the nerve to walk back through it. Maybe I was lucky and just stepped over a hole that I'd fall in on the way back. I psyched myself up enough to wade back through the grass and my steps would quicken the closer I got to a rock. Once I reached the edge and saw the rocks and stained dirty brown bottom of the stream I was relieved. I'm sure I'll get over my fear some day but it wasn't that day.